Ask me anything: How do I navigate end-of-year festivities?

Question: I’m taking a break from drinking but there are a lot of end-of-year parties and get-togethers coming up. Any tips for getting through this boozy period?

Answer: Drinking is very much associated with the festive season. Work parties, end-of-year get-togethers with friends, Christmas lunches, holiday drinks.

Whatever the social occasions you have on your calendar, this can be a period of heightened concern if you’re rethinking your drinking.

When I first stopped drinking I worried about all sorts of things – what would I say to people about not drinking, would I be tempted, would I want to be around people when they were getting tipsy? 

My approach was, and still is, to follow the three Ws – why, what, when.

Why? When invited to a social event my first question is ‘why do I want to attend?’. It may be because I want to celebrate the end of a busy year with my colleagues or to catch up with friends I haven’t seen for awhile. If I genuinely want to attend then it helps me to remember that it doesn’t matter what is in my glass – I’m there because I enjoy the company. If I can’t think of a good reason to attend then I politely decline. 

What? This is two-fold: ‘what will I drink?’ and ‘what will I say about not drinking’. I make a plan for what I will say if people ask why I’m not drinking and I also think about what I will drink instead of the alcohol on offer.

The ‘what to say part’ depends on what you feel comfortable with and who you’re talking to. My go-to is generally “I’m taking a break to see if it makes me feel healthier, which it does”.

You don’t have to go into too much detail and, quite frankly, most people don’t care. 

The other part of asking ‘what?’ is considering what you will have to drink. My go-to drink is a tonic and lime because it is sold at most places. If possible, I’ll look at the drinks menu beforehand to see what options are available – some places have alcohol free beers, wines or mocktails. I also like ginger beer (be careful as there are alcoholic versions of ginger beer) and kombucha. If you’re going to someone’s place, or hosting something at yours, have your favourite alcohol-free beverage on hand.

When? Choosing when to leave is key. I have stayed too long at several social events and, in hindsight, wished I’d left earlier. When the people you’re with are getting very tipsy and you’re no longer enjoying being there, it’s time to make your exit. Often people don’t remember what time you’ve even left! 

Remember that it is a festive time and that is about being with people you like and doing the things you enjoy. Raise your glass, with whatever that contains, and enjoy. 

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